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Essential Albums

Herbie Mann: Flautista

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Herbie Mann

This recording by Herbie Mann is an extremely rare and beautiful disc. Originally recorded in 1959, it has been available as an analogue recording on vinyl, and re-released on the convenient CD format in 1998. The fact that this is a rarity and an audiophile one at that would make it all the more desirable to connoisseurs of great sound. But Flautista was never one of Herbie Mann’s most well-known albums. That credit must go to Memphis Underground. Still, it remains one of the most important recordings in Herbie Mann’s discography. It is a seminal work and it features some of the more iconic percussionists of the African-Caribbean Idiom. The more famous of these is the conguero, Carlos “Patato” Valdés, but Herbie Mann also included José Luis Mangual and Santos Miranda. Their performance on a myriad of percussion is matchless. The percussionists play an African drum—the Kenyan drum—throughout the album and this makes for a startling and deep rhythmic sound. The percussionists also include the vibraphonist and marimba player, Johnny Rae, a performer who has a natural African-Caribbean sound and was probably a shoe-in for the job when Herbie Mann was casting the album, back in 1959. Its producer, Norman Granz must also get credit for his inspired stellar cast for this primordial-sounding album.

Herbie Mann Plays Afro Cuban Jazz - Flautista!I find this album profoundly moving as well as exciting. Taken as read may be the superlative technique of its leader and star. Although Herbie Mann is the only reeds player on the album—and he also plays the bass clarinet—no details are overlooked due to the singularity of his position on the album. Herbie Mann’s playing is breathtaking on flutes as well as the bass clarinet. His soli are richly voiced and meltingly lovely in tone. As far as the music is concerned, I could go on picking out highlights from each of the charts here, but I would be repeating myself. Besides there is no real need to be effusive of this disc, despite the fact that the songs are one better than the other. One would suspect the music here is elegant, urbane and enjoyable. There is also no mistaking their primordial energy and even with a programme as short as this one, the impact is immediate and memorable as well. The engineering is clean and smooth and brings out the playing of the flutist to the maximum. Many times on this disc, Herbie Mann seems to be on virtuoso autopilot, while reeling off passagework and arpeggios that is such a feature as to leave us gasping for more.

The greatest pleasures are to be had on “Caravan” which is returned to its African-Caribbean roots, that is, the way it was conceived, but not played—sometimes not even by the Duke Ellington orchestra. There is also “Cuban Patato Chips” on which Herbie Mann is heard on bass clarinet to great effect. But overall, the flutist’s performances are lithe and agile and then as now they continue to bode well for this legendary instrumentalist.

Track List: Todos Locos; Cuban Patato Chips; Come On, Mule; The Amazon River; Caravan; Delilah; Basin Street Este.

Personnel: Herbie Mann: flute, bamboo flute and bass clarinet; Johnny Rae: vibraphone and marimba; Knobby Totah: bass and finger cymbals; Carlos “Patato” Valdés: congas, Kenyan drum and percussion; José Luis Mangual: bongos and Kenyan drum; Santos Miranda: drums, Kenyan drum and percussion.

Label: Verve Records
Release date: June 1959
Website: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbie_Mann
Buy music on: amazon

Herbie Mann

Not many musicians can claim to have single-handedly created the style of music for which they are famous. Among the select group who legitimately can is Herbie Mann, a seminal figure in the American jazz scene of the 1960s and ’70s. Largely on the strength of his talent for improvisation and willingness to experiment, Mann formulated a jazz style for the flute, raising to the rank of lead an instrument which prior to his arrival had been limited to a minor role in the jazz pantheon. In the process, he was to garner a reputation as one of the most eclectic figures in the music world, readily mixing a wide range of styles from African to Brazilian, from Charlie Parker to disco, to create music that crossed boundaries in every sense of the word. Read more…

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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Essential Albums

Azymuth: Telecommunications

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This album, Telecommunications, is one of the most iconic recordings by Azymuth, the ineffably funky Brasilian trio. When it was released – on the Milestone label in 1982 – it became a monumental hit, propelling the group, it went Gold and exploded into the Top 10 in the British Charts, soaring heavenward in popularity all over Europe too.

It’s not hard to understand the extraordinary popularity of Azymuth. First and foremost has to be the unmatched funkiness of all the musicians who made up the original trio: keyboards superstar, vocalist and percussionist José Roberto Bertrami, who sadly passed away on July 8th 1012, Ivan Mamão Conti, who just has to be considered one of the most funky drummers since Zigaboo Modeliste, [who practically invented funk drumming as one of the illustrious members of the iconic New Orleans group The Meters], and bassist Alex Malherios whose rumble and roar made for the glue [together with Mamão] that solidified the rhythmic edifice of the trio, while the soloist [particularly, Bertrami] launched himself on his mighty solo flights.

Azymuth: Telecommunications
Azymuth: Telecommunications

It may have been the syncopation of choro that carried over into Brasili’s most iconic urban music and dance forms – samba, a versatile rhythm that can assume many forms. Heated up, with a shouted call-and-response verse backed by literally thousands of samba-school drums on parade, it becomes samba de enredo [the mass Carnival music that is famous the world over]. But what happens when you take the vocals out of the musical equation, funk up the rhythm, add a rumbling electric bass guitar and jazz up the rippling Brasilian percussion?

That’s when you get the funkiest music that became the clarion call of Brasilian funk music ensembles, of which Azymuth was probably the most famous, plying its stock-in-trade at all the major jazz festivals – from the Americas to Europe – Monterey to Montreux and way beyond.  The music on this seminal album, Telecommunications is characteristic of Azymuth at its very best. The repertoire came at a time when this heavyweight trio had reached the apogee of the musical style that continues to be a niche. A style that it had carved out for itself, with an eclectic, jazzy mix of Brasilian rhythms upon which were overlaid dallying soli by Mr Bertrami and Mamão, together with the rumbling bass of Mr Malherios.

Azymuth Trio
Azymuth Trio

Telecommunications’ opener “Estreito de Taruma” features a filing solo by the great Brasilian guitarist Helio Delmirio. The warm sonority, clean technique and penchant for spare ornamentation in his playing made him a guitarist like none other to come out of the raging flood of guitarists that cascaded out of the ocean of Brasilian music. The music that Mr Delmirio sculpted, from the steel strings at his fingertips, made the musical notes fly off the paper. His lines floated askance, oblique to the not so predictable keyboard playing by Mr Bertrami.

Throughout the two sides of this vinyl –superbly remastered by George Horn, by the way– we find music that is a testament to the musicians’ [and composers’] boundless invention. This music is replete with a wide expressive range and technical challenges, not to mention the fact that once all of the musicians have had their say, a musical structure is constructed that defies logic, convention and other well-worn stylistic hooks. So monumental is the music’s cachet. Mr Bertrami’s “Last Summer in Rio” and the wistful finale – “The House I Lived In” [together with its “Prelude” – as a finale, no less] is typical of the brooding, tumbling groove that Azymuth created for itself – a sound so unique among [any] other musicians from the 1970’s onward, is yet to be imitated, copied or otherwise reproduced by Brasilian artists other than Azymuth.

YouTube Playlist

Tracks – Side A – 1: Estreito de Taruma; 2: What Price Samba [Quanta Vale um Samba]; 3: Country Road [Chão de Terra]; 4: May I Have This Dance? [Concede me Esto Dança?]. Side B – 1: Nothing Will Be As It Was [Nada Sera Como Antes]; 2: Last Summer in Rio; 3: The House I Lived In [A Casa em Que Vivi]; Prelude

Musicians – José Roberto Bertrami: organ [Side A 1, 4; Side B 1-3], keyboards [Side A 2, 4; Side B 1, 2], vocoder [Side A 3, 4], vocal [Side A 2] and percussion [Side A 1, 4; Side B 1]; Alex Malherios: electric bass [Side A 1, 4; Side B 2], fretless bass [Side A 2, 3; Side B 2]; bass guitar [Side A 4], and acoustic guitar [Side A 3]; Ivan Mamão Conti: drums [Side A 1, 2, 4; Side B 1, 2] and percussion [Side A 1, 3]; Special Guests – Helio Delmirio:  electric guitar [Aide A 1; Side B 2]; Aleuda: percussion [Side A 3, 4; Side B 1]; Dotô: repique [Side A 2]; Cidinho: percussion [Side B 2]

Released – 1982
Remastered and Released (vinyl) – 2022
Label – Milestone [1982]
Jazz Dispensary – [2022]
Runtime – Side A 19:21 Side B 21:43  

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